I’m a firm believer that Blaine Gabbert is the problem in Jacksonville. Yes, I understand that Chad Henne only won one game last year in Gabbert’s stead. Yes, I’m aware they started roughly a dozen different running backs last season. Yep, I know the players are adjusting to their fourth different head coach in three years. Yes, I’m aware their defense is in shambles, not to mention full-on rebuild mode.
Yeah, yeah, I get it — there are more problems than Gabbert.
But for fantasy purposes, Gabbert is the type of problem that could soil your early-round picks of running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts. And if you’re keeping one eye open for sleepers like wide receiver Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis, you’d do better to doze off if Gabbert’s at the helm.
The value of Jaguars players this year hinges on the team’s starting quarterback. If you plan on drafting
any Jaguar this season, fall to your knees and pray that Henne wins the starting job in preseason. Don’t think it’s that big a deal? Here, have some stats. We’ll start with 2012 Gabbert.
: Gabbert’s average passing yards per game in nine full starts. That means only 18.2 fantasy points to be split among all Jaguars pass catchers.
: The number of touchdowns per game that Gabbert threw. That’s only six extra points available for one of those yardage-starved receivers.
: Gabbert’s average number of completions per game. If you’re in a points per reception league, 18 more points are up for grabs for Jones-Drew, Shorts, Blackmon, Lewis, Jordan Shipley, Ace Sanders, Mohamed Massaquoi and anyone else with a pair of hands.
: The number of yards Shorts accumulated on a last-minute touchdown catch to win the Week 3 game against Indianapolis. Broken pass coverage and Shorts’ breakaway speed made the touchdown possible.
: The amount of passing yards Gabbert had against the Colts prior to the aforementioned Shorts touchdown catch.
Those numbers add up to a lot of sad faces and empty seats in Jacksonville. In fantasy land, those numbers barely add up to flex-worthy. Let’s switch gears to the running game while Gabbert’s under center.
: Total team rushing yards per game in games which both Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew played. Total
team rushing yardage, not Jones-Drew’s yardage. Carries from backup running backs and scrambles from Gabbert cut into those 91 yards per game. Keep all this in mind before you spend a second-round pick on Jones-Drew this season.
: Team rushing yards per game in Gabbert’s three full games following Jones-Drew’s season-ending injury.
Now let’s take a gander at Henne’s 2012 stats from Week 11 onward (after Gabbert suffered a season-ending injury against Houston). Whereas the ultraconservative, mistake-fearing Gabbert clings to a short passing game, Henne slings the rock everywhere. Henne’s oft-reckless arm creates some game-killing turnovers, but that won’t harm you if you’re starting a Jaguar running back, wide receiver or tight end.
: Henne’s average passing yards per game after taking over for Gabbert in Week 11 against Houston. That’s 85 more yards per game than Gabbert, which means about nine more fantasy points available for wide receivers, tight ends, and pass-catching running backs.
: Henne’s lowest passing output in a game he started last season (three yards more than Gabbert’s
: The number of passing touchdowns per game after Henne took over in Week 11 against Houston. Not sexy, but Henne threw more touchdowns in the team’s last seven games than Gabbert did in the team’s first nine.
: Henne’s average number of completions per game. Again, nothing outrageous, but three more than Gabbert’s average.
Henne’s passing stats are much easier on the eyes, but it’s the running game that improved with him under center. Pay close attention to this next part. It’ll speak volumes about how to approach Jones-Drew on draft day.
: Team rushing yards per game after Henne took over in Week 11. Note that Jones-Drew never saw the field in a game Henne started. That average of 94.3 beats the average rushing yards per game of when Gabbert was under center
with Jones-Drew in the backfield by 3.3 and without Jones-Drew by 40!
: What you get when you take the rushing yards per game in Jones-Drew/Gabbert games (91) and subtract the rushing yards per game in Gabbert games without Jones-Drew (54.4). In other words, the Jaguars rushed for 36.6 more yards per game when Jones-Drew played last season.
Why am I including this in the Henne section? Well, since you asked …
: The extrapolated number of rushing yards per game if
both Henne and Jones-Drew were starters. Take the rushing yards per game in Henne games (94.3), add the difference between Jones-Drew/no Jones-Drew yardage in Gabbert games (36.6), and you have 130.9 rushing yards per game. That kind of total yardage means Jones-Drew should hit triple-figures on the ground with Henne at quarterback, even with Justin Forsett and Denard Robinson eating into his carry total.
With draft day approaching, keep your eyes glued to the Jaguars depth chart before you spend a pick on Jones-Drew, Shorts, Blackmon and Lewis. There is a significantly higher amount of fantasy points to go around among the skill players if Henne is under center. And while Henne may be a sloppy real-life quarterback, he makes his teammates fantasy-friendly.